Sunday, February 10, 2013

China Page by Page

... my favorite way to prepare for my trip ...
I have a beautiful book on China that I am trying to read before Greg, Wyona and I take a trip there. I know that reading in it 10 pages a day will make me think I am going on a 3 month cruise and not on a 39 day one – for I start into my “cruising” mode the moment I put my eyes on the pages.

I am reading China: Empire and Civilization by Edward L. Shaughnessy, a 256 page coffee table book, really. Every page is filled with photos and side bars. The photos are accompanied by detailed, small print text. The side bars refer me to the reference section in the back or they give added depth to what is going on with just the regular text, which is also half a page long.
I linger on every page and will never get through the whole book.
Reading is like being in a museum with a guide.
The plastron is the flat belly side of the shell.

“A turtle plastron used in Shang dynasty ‘oracle-bone’ divination excavated at the ancient Shang capital of Anyang in present-day Henan province.” The reason that my reading is slowing down is that I don’t know what a plastron is so I look that up. Next I have to check out a map to see where the Henan province is. I know I am not going to be able to remember the names of those cities, so I write them a couple of times -- like I am learning my spelling words for the week. Knowing what an oracle-bone is at least helps me stay away from Wikipedia on that sentence. All of that time is just to get me past the text under a picture which I also have to study.

I know that half of my fun will occur before the cruise begins and that I will think I have had my money’s worth, even if I don’t get on the boat. I spend a lot of my time at the back of the book, looking at the Table of Dynasties and studying the Language and Pronunciation page.

On a real tour, I am only good for about 5 hours and then I have to sit down. From the comfort of my own home, I can go on a longer trip – especially when I add in any TV specials that I see about China. I taped A Bowl of Tea on my PVR and enjoyed watching it as I was eating lunch one day. I didn’t go out to the International Movie Data Base (IMDB) to look at any external reviews on the film – I just watched as though I were in China. When I read the reviews afterwards they were a thumbs down on the plot, which passed right by me, since I was so busy looking at the landscape, the profiles, the urban regions, and the streets of the cities. Odd that an upcoming trip to the ports of China can cloud my power to give a film a good critique.


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